List Of Contents | Contents of The Wandering Jew, V7, by Eugene Sue
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He did not appear to me agitated.  He was simple and affectionate as he
always is.  He spoke to me of events relating to M. Hardy, and then,
without transition, without hesitation, he said to me:  `The last four
days I have been desperately in love.  The sentiment is so serious, that
I think of marriage.  I have come to consult you about it.'  That was how
this overwhelming revelation was made to me--naturally and cordially -I
on one side of the hearth, and Agricola an the other, as if we had talked
of indifferent things.  And yet no more is needed to break one's heart.
Some one enters, embraces you like a brother, sits down, talks--and then-
-Oh! Merciful heaven! my head wanders.

"I feel calmer now.  Courage, my poor heart, courage!--Should a day of
misfortune again overwhelm me, I will read these lines written under the
impression of the most cruel grief I can ever feel, and I will say to
myself: `What is the present woe compared to that past?' My grief is
indeed cruel! it is illegitimate, ridiculous, shameful: I should not dare
to confess it, even to the most indulgent of mothers.  Alas! there are
some fearful sorrows, which yet rightly make men shrug their shoulders in
pity or contempt.  Alas! these are forbidden misfortunes.  Agricola has
asked me to go to-morrow, to see this young girl to whom he is so
passionately attached, and whom he will marry, if the instinct of my
heart should approve the marriage.  This thought is the most painful of
all those which have tortured me since he so pitilessly announced this
love.  Pitilessly?  No, Agricola--no, my brother--forgive me this unjust
cry of pain!  Is it that you know, can even suspect, that I love you
better than you love, better than you can ever love, this charming

"`Dark-haired--the figure of a nymph--fair as a lily--with blue eyes--as
large as that--and almost as mild as your own.'

"That is the portrait he drew of her.  Poor Agricola! how would he have
suffered, had he known that every one of his words was tearing my heart.
Never did I so strongly feel the deep commiseration and tender pity,
inspired by a good, affectionate being, who, in the sincerity of his
ignorance, gives you your death-wound with a smile.  We do not blame him-
-no--we pity him to the full extent of the grief that he would feel on
learning the pain he had caused me.  It is strange! but never did
Agricola appear to me more handsome than this morning.  His manly
countenance was slightly agitated, as he spoke of the uneasiness of that
pretty young lady.  As I listened to him describing the agony of a woman
who runs the risk of ruin for the man she loves, I felt my heart beat
violently, my hands were burning, a soft languor floated over me--
Ridiculous folly!  As if I had any right to feel thus!

"I remember that, while he spoke, I cast a rapid glance at the glass.  I
felt proud that I was so well dressed; he had not even remarked it; but
no matter--it seemed to me that my cap became me, that my hair shone
finely, my gaze beamed mild--I found Agricola so handsome, that I almost
began to think myself less ugly--no doubt, to excuse myself in my own
eyes for daring to love him.  After all, what happened to-day would have
happened one day or another!  Yes, that is consoling--like the thoughts
that death is nothing, because it must come at last--to those who are in
love with life!  I have been always preserved from suicide--the last
resource of the unfortunate, who prefer trusting in God to remaining
amongst his creatures--by the sense of duty.  One must not only think of
self.  And I reflected also`God is good--always good--since the most
wretched beings find opportunities for love and devotion.' How is it that
I, so weak and poor, have always found means to be helpful and useful to
some one?

"This very day I felt tempted to make an end with life--Agricola and his
mother had no longer need of me.--Yes, but the unfortunate creatures whom
Mdlle. de Cardoville has commissioned me to watch over?--but my
benefactress herself, though she has affectionately reproached me with
the tenacity of my suspicions in regard to that man?  I am more than ever
alarmed for her--I feel that she is more than ever in danger--more than
ever--I have faith in the value of my presence near her.  Hence, I must
live.  Live--to go to-morrow to see this girl, whom Agricola passionately
loves?  Good heaven! why have I always known grief, and never hate?
There must be a bitter pleasure in hating.  So many people hate!--Perhaps
I may hate this girl--Angela, as he called her, when he said, with so
much simplicity: `A charming name, is it not, Mother Bunch?' Compare this
name, which recalls an idea so full of grace, with the ironical symbol of
my witch's deformity!  Poor Agricola! poor brother! goodness is sometimes
as blind as malice, I see.  Should I hate this young girl?--Why?  Did she
deprive me of the beauty which charms Agricola?  Can I find fault with
her for being beautiful?  When I was not yet accustomed to the
consequences of my ugliness, I asked myself, with bitter curiosity, why
the Creator had endowed his creatures so unequally.  The habit of pain
has allowed me to reflect calmly, and I have finished by persuading
myself, that to beauty and ugliness are attached the two most noble
emotions of the soul--admiration and compassion.  Those who are like me
admire beautiful persons--such as Angela, such as Agricola--and these in
their turn feel a couching pity for such as I am.  Sometimes, in spite of
one's self, one has very foolish hopes.  Because Agricola, from a feeling
of propriety had never spoken to me of his love affairs, I sometimes
persuaded myself that he had none--that he loved me, and that the fear of
ridicule alone was with him, as with me, an obstacle in the way of
confessing it.  Yes, I have even made verses on that subject--and those,
I think, not the worst I have written.

"Mine is a singular position!  If I love, I am ridiculous; if any love
me, he is still more ridiculous.  How did I come so to forget that, as to
have suffered and to suffer what I do?--But blessed be that suffering,
since it has not engendered hate--no; for I will not hate this girl--I
will Perform a sister's part to the last; I will follow the guidance of
my heart; I have the instinct of preserving others--my heart will lead
and enlighten me.  My only fear is, that I shall burst into tears when I
see her, and not be able to conquer my emotion.  Oh, then! what a
revelation to Agricola--a discovery of the mad love he has inspired!--Oh,
never! the day in which he knew that would be the last of my life.  There
would then be within me something stronger than duty--the longing to
escape from shame--that incurable shame, that burns me like a hot iron.
No, no; I will be calm.  Besides, did I not just now, when with him bear
courageously a terrible trial?  I will be calm.  My personal feelings
must not darken the second sight, so clear for those I love.  Oh!
painful--painful task! for the fear of yielding involuntarily to evil
sentiments must not render me too indulgent toward this girl.  I might
compromise Agricola's happiness, since my decision is to guide his
choice.  Poor creature that I am.  How I deceive myself!  Agricola asks
my advice, because he thinks that I shall have not the melancholy courage
to oppose his passion; or else he would say to me: `No matter--I love;
and I brave the future!'

"But then, if my advice, if the instincts of my heart, are not to guide
him--if his resolution is taken beforehand--of what use will be to-
morrow's painful mission?  Of what use?  To obey him.  Did he not say--
'Come!' In thinking of my devotion for him, how many times, in the secret
depths of my heart, I have asked myself if the thought had ever occurred
to him to love me otherwise than as a sister; if it had ever struck him,
what a devoted wife he would have in me!  And why should it have occurred
to him?  As long as he wished, as long as he may still wish, I have been,
and I shall be, as devoted to him, as if I were his wife, sister, or
mother.  Why should he desire what he already possesses?

"Married to him--oh, God!--the dream is mad as ineffable.  Are not such
thoughts of celestial sweetness--which include all sentiments from
sisterly to maternal love--forbidden to me, on pain of ridicule as
distressing as if I wore dresses and ornaments, that my ugliness and
deformity would render absurd?  I wonder, if I were now plunged into the
most cruel distress, whether I should suffer as much as I do, on hearing
of Agricola's intended marriage?  Would hunger, cold, or misery diminish
this dreadful dolor?--or is it the dread pain that would make me forget
hunger, cold, and misery?

"No, no; this irony is bitter.  It is not well in me to speak thus.  Why
such deep grief?  In what way have the affection, the esteem, the respect
of Agricola, changed towards me?  I complain--but how would it be, kind
heaven! if, as, alas! too often happens, I were beautiful, loving,
devoted, and he had chosen another, less beautiful, less loving, less
devoted?--Should I not be a thousand times more unhappy? for then I
might, I would have to blame him--whilst now I can find no fault with
him, for never having thought of a union which was impossible, because
ridiculous.  And had he wished it, could I ever have had the selfishness
to consent to it?  I began to write the first pages of this diary as I
began these last, with my heart steeped in bitterness--and as I went on,
committing to paper what I could have intrusted to no one, my soul grew
calm, till resignation came--Resignation, my chosen saint, who, smiling
through her tears, suffers and loves, but hopes--never!"

These word's were the last in the journal.  It was clear, from the blots
of abundant tears, that the unfortunate creature had often paused to

In truth, worn out by so many emotions, Mother Bunch late in the night,
had replaced the book behind the cardboard box, not that she thought it
safer there than elsewhere (she had no suspicion of the slightest need
for such precaution), but because it was more out of the way there than
in any of the drawers, which she frequently opened in presence of other
people.  Determined to perform her courageous promise, and worthily
accomplish her task to the end, she waited the next day for Agricola, and
firm in her heroic resolution, went with the smith to M. Hardy's factory.
Florine, informed of her departure, but detained a portion of the day in
attendance on Mdlle. de Cardoville preferred waiting for night to perform
the new orders she had asked and received, since she had communicated by
letter the contents of Mother Bunch's journal.  Certain not to be
surprised, she entered the workgirls' chamber, as soon as the night was

Knowing the place where she should find the manuscript, she went straight
to the desk, took out the box, and then, drawing from her pocket a sealed
letter, prepared to leave it in the place of the manuscript, which she
was to carry away with her.  So doing, she trembled so much, that she was
obliged to support herself an instant by the table.  Every good sentiment
was not extinct in Florine's heart; she obeyed passively the orders she
received, but she felt painfully how horrible and infamous was her
conduct.  If only herself had been concerned, she would no doubt have had
the courage to risk all, rather than submit to this odious despotism; but
unfortunately, it was not so, and her ruin would have caused the mortal
despair of another person whom she loved better than life itself.  She
resigned herself, therefore, not without cruel anguish, to abominable

Though she hardly ever knew for what end she acted, and this was
particularly the case with regard to the abstraction of the journal, she
foresaw vaguely, that the substitution of this sealed letter for the
manuscript would have fatal consequences for Mother Bunch, for she
remembered Rodin's declaration, that "it was time to finish with the
young sempstress."

What did he mean by those words?  How would the letter that she was
charged to put in the place of the diary, contribute to bring about this
result? she did not know--but she understood that the clear-sighted
devotion of the hunchback justly alarmed the enemies of Mdlle. de
Cardoville, and that she (Florine) herself daily risked having her
perfidy detected by the young needlewoman.  This last fear put an end to
the hesitations of Florine; she placed the letter behind the box, and,
hiding the manuscript under her apron, cautiously withdrew from the



Returned into her own room, some hours after she had concealed there the
manuscript abstracted from Mother Bunch's apartment, Florine yielded to
her curiosity, and determined to look through it.  She soon felt a
growing interest, an involuntary emotion, as she read more of these
private thoughts of the young sempstress.  Among many pieces of verse,
which all breathed a passionate love for Agricola--a love so deep,
simple, and sincere, that Florine was touched by it, and forgot the
author's deformity--among many pieces of verse, we say, were divers other
fragments, thoughts, and narratives, relating to a variety of facts.  We
shall quote some of them, in order to explain the profound impression
that their perusal made upon Florine.

Fragments from the Diary.

"This is my birthday.  Until this evening, I had cherished a foolish
hope.  Yesterday, I went down to Mrs. Baudoin's, to dress a little wound
she had on her leg.  When I entered the room, Agricola was there.  No
doubt he was talking of me to his mother, for they stopped when I came
in, and exchanged a meaning smile.  In passing by the drawers, I saw a
pasteboard box, with a pincushion-lid, and I felt myself blushing with
joy, as I thought this little present was destined for me, but I
pretended not to see it.  While I was on my knees before his mother,
Agricola went out.  I remarked that he took the little box with him.
Never has Mrs. Baudoin been more tender and motherly than she was that
morning.  It appeared to me that she went to bed earlier than usual.  `It
is to send me away sooner,' said I to myself, `that I may enjoy the
surprise Agricola has prepared for me.' How my heart beat, as I ran fast,
very fast, up to my closet!  I stopped a moment before opening the door,
that my happiness might last the longer.  At last I entered the room, my
eyes swimming with tears of joy.  I looked upon my table, my chair, my
bed--there was nothing.  The little box was not to be found.  My heart
sank within me.  Then I said to myself: `It will be to-morrow--this is
only the eve of my birthday.'  The day is gone.  Evening is come.
Nothing.  The pretty box was not for me.  It had a pincushion-cover.  It
was only suited for a woman.  To whom has Agricola given it?

"I suffer a good deal just now.  It was a childish idea that I connected
with Agricola's wishing me many happy returns of the day.  I am ashamed
to confess it; but it might have proved to me, that he has not forgotten
I have another name besides that of Mother Bunch, which they always apply

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